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Today we mark the beginning of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of our beloved Bapu. He remains a shining beacon of hope for millions of people across the world who seek a life of equality, dignity, inclusion and empowerment. The impact he left on human society has few parallels.

Mahatma Gandhi connected India, in letter and spirit, in thought and action. As Sardar Patel rightly said, “India is a land of diversity. If there was one person who brought everyone together, made people rise above differences, to fight colonialism and enhanced India’s stature at the world stage, it was Mahatma Gandhi.” In the 21st century, the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi remain as essential as they were in his time and offer solutions to several problems the world faces. In a world where terrorism, radicalisation, extremism and mindless hate are dividing nations as well as societies, his clarion calls of peace and ahimsa have the power to unite humanity.

At a time when inequalities are not uncommon, Bapu’s emphasis on equal and inclusive growth can herald an era of prosperity for the millions on the margins. In an era where climate change and environmental degradation have become central issues of discussion, the world can refer to the thoughts of Gandhiji. More than a century ago, in 1909 he differentiated between human wants and human greed. He urged both restraint and compassion while utilising natural resources and, he himself led by example in doing this. He cleaned his own toilets, ensuring clean surroundings. He also ensured minimal wastage of water and when he was in Ahmedabad, he took great care to ensure that unclean water did not merge with the Sabarmati.

Sometime back, a crisp, comprehensive and concise document caught my attention. In 1941, Bapu wrote the ‘Constructive Programme: Its meaning and place’, which he subsequently modified in 1945, when there was renewed fervour around the freedom movement. In that document, Bapu has talked about a wide range of topics ranging across rural development, strengthening agriculture, enhancing sanitation, promoting Khadi, empowerment of women, economic equality among other issues.

I would urge my fellow Indians to have a look at Gandhiji’s ‘Constructive Programme’ and make it a guiding light on how we can build the India of Bapu’s dreams. Many topics are absolutely relevant today and the government of India is fulfilling many of the points venerable Bapu raised seven decades ago but remain unfulfilled even today.

One of the most beautiful aspects of Gandhiji’s personality was that he made every Indian feel that he or she is working for India’s freedom. He instilled the spirit of self-belief that a teacher, lawyer, doctor, farmer, labourer, entrepreneur, in whatever they were doing they were contributing to India’s freedom struggle. In the same light, today, let us embrace those aspects we think we can act upon that will fulfil Gandhiji’s vision. It can start with something as simple as ensuring zero waste of food to imbibing values of non-violence and togetherness.

Let us think about how our actions can contribute to a cleaner and greener environment for the future generations. Almost eight decades ago, when the threats of pollution were not as much, Gandhiji took to cycling. Those in Ahmedabad recall him cycling from Gujarat Vidyapith to Sabarmati Ashram. In fact, I read that one of Gandhiji’s first protests in South Africa was against a set of laws that prevented people from cycling. Despite a prosperous legal career, Gandhiji would use the bicycle to travel in Johannesburg. Can we emulate this same spirit today?

The festive season is here and people across India would be shopping for new clothes, gifts, food items and more. While doing so, remember the wise thoughts Gandhiji gave us in the form of his talisman. Let us think about how our actions can light the lamp of prosperity in the lives of our fellow Indians. By buying what they make, be it a khadi product, or a gift item or foodstuffs, we are helping our fellow Indians in pursuit of a better life. We may never have seen them or may not do so for the rest of our lives. However, Bapu would be proud of us that in our actions we are helping fellow Indians.

Over the last four years, 130 crore Indians have paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi in the form of the Swachh Bharat Mission. Completing four years today, it has emerged as a vibrant mass movement with commendable outcomes. Over 85 million households now have access to toilets for the first time. Over 400 million Indians no longer have to defecate in the open. In a short span of four years, sanitation coverage is up from 39% to 95%. Twenty-one states, Union territories and 4.5 lakh villages are now open defecation free.

An overwhelming majority of Indians today did not have the good fortune of being a part of the freedom struggle. We could not die for the nation then but now, we must live for the nation and do everything possible to build the India our freedom fighters envisioned. Today we have a great opportunity to fulfil Bapu’s dream. We have covered substantial ground and I am confident we will cover a lot more in the times to come.

One of Bapu’s favourite hymns was “vaishnav jan to tene kahiye je, peer parayee jaane re,” which means “a good soul is one who feels the pain of others.” It was this spirit that made him live for others. Today, we, the 1.3 billion Indians are committed to working together to fulfil the dreams Bapu saw for a country for which he gave his life.

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‘ચલતા હૈ’ નું વલણ છોડી દઈને ‘બદલ સકતા હૈ’ વિચારવાનો સમય પાકી ગયો છે: વડાપ્રધાન મોદી

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‘ચલતા હૈ’ નું વલણ છોડી દઈને ‘બદલ સકતા હૈ’ વિચારવાનો સમય પાકી ગયો છે: વડાપ્રધાન મોદી
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Why India and the World Need Gandhi
October 02, 2019
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The great leader envisioned a world where every citizen has dignity and prosperity.

Upon reaching India in 1959, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remarked, “To other countries I may go as a tourist, but to India I come as a pilgrim”. He added, “Perhaps, above all, India is the land where the techniques of nonviolent social change were developed that my people have used in Montgomery, Alabama, and elsewhere throughout the American South. We have found them to be effective and sustaining — they work!”

The guiding light whose inspiration got Dr. King to India was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Mahatma, the Great Soul. On Wednesday, we observe his 150th birth anniversary. Gandhi Ji, or Bapu, continues to give courage to millions globally.

Gandhian methods of resistance ignited a spirit of hope among several African nations. Dr. King remarked: “When I was visiting in Ghana, West Africa, Prime Minister Nkrumah told me that he had read the works of Gandhi and felt that nonviolent resistance could be extended there. We recall that South Africa has had bus boycotts also.”

Nelson Mandela referred to Gandhi as “the Sacred Warrior” and wrote, “His strategy of noncooperation, his assertion that we can be dominated only if we cooperate with our dominators, and his nonviolent resistance inspired anticolonial and antiracist movements internationally in our century.”

For Mr. Mandela, Gandhi was Indian and South African. Gandhi would have approved. He had the unique ability to become a bridge between some of the greatest contradictions in human society.

In 1925, Gandhi wrote in “Young India”: “It is impossible for one to be internationalist without being a nationalist. Internationalism is possible only when nationalism becomes a fact, i.e., when peoples belonging to different countries have organized themselves and are able to act as one man.” He envisioned Indian nationalism as one that was never narrow or exclusive but one that worked for the service of humanity.

Mahatma Gandhi also epitomized trust among all sections of society. In 1917, Ahmedabad in Gujarat witnessed a huge textile strike. When the conflict between the mill workers and owners escalated to a point of no return, it was Gandhi who mediated an equitable settlement.

Gandhi formed the Majoor Mahajan Sangh, an association for workers’ rights. At first sight, it may seem just another name of an organization but it reveals how small steps created a large impact. During those days, “Mahajan” was used as a title of respect for elites. Gandhi inverted the social structure by attaching the name “Mahajan” to “Majoor,” or laborers. With that linguistic choice, Gandhi enhanced the pride of workers.

And Gandhi combined ordinary objects with mass politics. Who else could have used a charkha, a spinning wheel, and khadi, Indian homespun cloth, as symbols of economic self-reliance and empowerment for a nation?

Who else could have created a mass agitation through a pinch of salt! During colonial rule, Salt Laws, which placed a new tax on Indian salt, had become a burden. Through the Dandi March in 1930, Gandhi challenged the Salt Laws. His picking up a small lump of natural salt from the Arabian Sea shore led to the historic civil disobedience movement.

There have been many mass movements in the world, many strands of the freedom struggle even in India, but what sets apart the Gandhian struggle and those inspired by him is the wide-scale public participation. He never held administrative or elected office. He was never tempted by power.

For him, independence was not absence of external rule. He saw a deep link between political independence and personal empowerment. He envisioned a world where every citizen has dignity and prosperity. When the world spoke about rights, Gandhi emphasized duties. He wrote in “Young India”: “The true source of rights is duty. If we all discharge our duties, rights will not be far to seek.” He wrote in the journal Harijan, “Rights accrue automatically to him who duly performs his duties.”

Gandhi gave us the doctrine of trusteeship, which emphasized the socio-economic welfare of the poor. Inspired by that, we should think about a spirit of ownership. We, as inheritors of the earth, are responsible for its well-being, including that of the flora and fauna with whom we share our planet.

In Gandhi, we have the best teacher to guide us. From uniting those who believe in humanity to furthering sustainable development and ensuring economic self-reliance, Gandhi offers solutions to every problem.

We in India are doing our bit. India is among the fastest when it comes to eliminating poverty. Our sanitation efforts have drawn global attention. India is also taking the lead in harnessing renewable resources through efforts like the International Solar Alliance, which has brought together several nations to leverage solar energy for a sustainable future. We want to do even more, with the world and for the world.

As a tribute to Gandhi, I propose what I call the Einstein Challenge. We know Albert Einstein’s famous words on Gandhi: “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”

How do we ensure the ideals of Gandhi are remembered by future generations? I invite thinkers, entrepreneurs and tech leaders to be at the forefront of spreading Gandhi’s ideas through innovation.

Let us work shoulder to shoulder to make our world prosperous and free from hate, violence and suffering. That is when we will fulfill Mahatma Gandhi’s dream, summed up in his favorite hymn, “Vaishnava Jana To,” which says that a true human is one who feels the pain of others, removes misery and is never arrogant.

The world bows to you, beloved Bapu!